Arizona is overflowing with natural wonders, and truly has something unique to offer for everyone. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, photographer, hiker, swimmer, or just enjoy soaking up some sun-Arizona has something for you. These 10 destinations are diamonds in the rough, or more like diamonds in the sand…
1) Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located in the Navajo region near Page, Arizona. The Navajo meaning translates into “the place where water runs through rocks” due to the strong currents and flash floods that sweep through the canyon. This flowing water has created these curvy, spiritual rock arches which allow you to explore the cozy canyon walls up close and personal.
The canyon is divided into Upper and Lower Canyon, Upper being the canyon visited more often by tourists. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds and have a chance to see the best light. Photography tours, more personalized tours, or standard group tours are all available for purchase in Page, Arizona!
2) The Wave
The wave is one of the coolest rock formations you will ever see. The sandstone rock swirls are located on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes on the Utah-Arizona border. The visuals are stunning, and look other-worldly, with designs of crimson orange, red, and white swirling together. A day use permit is required to view the wave, and many people book their spots months before, so plan ahead.
3) Horse Shoe Bend
Horse Shoe Bend is a display of mother nature at her finest. The first words that come to my mind are: spectacular, dizzying, electrifying, dramatic(insert your own definition here). This natural phenomenon grants an awe-inspiring vista of the Colorado river as it wraps its way 360 degrees around the Arizona earth creating a horse shoe formation.
4) Havasupai Falls
Crowned the Garden of Eden in the desert, visiting and seeing Havasupai Falls is one of those breath-taking, pinch-me moments. You can enter the Havasupai Indian reservation by hiking 11 miles, or for an easier option – there are horses and helicopters for hire.
Seeing this waterfall oasis spilling through the desert over hundreds of waterfalls is absolutely mesmerizing. There are five large waterfalls to frolic in: Havasupai, Mooney, Rock, New Navajo, and last but certainly not least, Beaver Falls. Be sure to call ahead as permits are required, and give yourself about 3-5 days to explore depending on your wonder woman camping skills. I went for 3 days and really regretted not staying longer! Best time to go: March-May or September-October to avoid excruciating desert heat.
5) Fossil Creek
Fossil Creek is a great place to bathe, swim, and jump off waterfalls. The hike to the falls is approximately 4 miles, and takes you through spectacular Arizona scenery, ending at the Fossil Creek waterfall. The best part about this small desert oasis is the privacy. If you want a secret weekend getaway, head straight for Fossil Creek.
Sedona is one of those towns you run away to, or at least I always did during my time studying at Arizona State. As you drive into the red rocks surrounding you, your troubles will start to melt away. The air tastes fresh, the people are friendly, and the mountains are yours to explore with hundreds of trails available! Some of the most popular hiking spots are Devil’s Bridge, Cathedral rock, or the spiritual vortex.
7) Slide Rock
Give into your inner child and slip into slide rock. Slide rock is a natural waterslide formed by the water surging through the Oak Creek Canyon just outside of Sedona. This place pulsates in the summer months and you can find music, families with picnics, and even a party.
8) Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff is located in northern Arizona and is home to pine trees, mountains, and even snowcapped mountains for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Flagstaff is a perfect weekend getaway, or addition to any road trip in the Southwest. Its ski town vibes, local pubs with craft beer, and array of hippie gemstone stores create for an unforgettable adventure.
9) Petrified Forest
Imagine stepping out of your car in Arizona and onto the moon. Well, we’re not quite there yet, but the Petrified National Forest is the closest thing on earth to the crater-stricken topography of the moon. The petrified wood located in this area is some of the oldest in the world.
Buy a geode rock and crack it open at the local store. With a little luck you’ll have a beautiful sparkling souvenir to take home!
10) Painted Desert
Last but not least, the painted desert is exactly what its name implies. Located in the Petrified Forest National Park, the various painted pigments are actually created by the different compounds in the rocks themselves in addition to erosion overtime. This creates the stunning allusion of rocks dipped in light grey, red, and pink water colors.
Most of these destinations are day or weekend trips, and you can pair them together to see on one road trip, or one weekend. I hope this helps you dig up all the hidden natural treasures buried within the Arizona desert!
What are your favorite places in Arizona? Did these ten make your list?
All photos by Phoebe Nygren unless otherwise stated